Past tense troubles

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Today's Frazz:


  1. Keith said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 5:46 am

    Very funny.

    I would not use a verb "to hang glide", it's almost always a noun for the activity "hang gliding"

    So the question for the past tense has at least three forms.
    Have you ever been hang gliding?
    Have you ever gone hang gliding?
    Did you ever go hang gliding?

    But I've heard constructions like "have you ever went…" and "did you ever went…"

  2. richardelguru said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 5:59 am

    So analogy is not king?

  3. Elonkareon said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 6:08 am

    I don't know, both of these seem pretty straightforward: hang glided, scuba dived.

    Then again the brain's capacity for outsmarting itself is limitless, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

  4. Craig S. said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 6:59 am

    A friend of mine once told me that she had just "blew-dried" her hair. That one has stayed with me.

  5. Bean said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 7:10 am

    Scuba DOVE. :P

    I was well into university when I finally realized that "dove" wasn't the officially sanctioned past tense of "dive", and now I've decided I don't give a hoot – if I'm understood, that's all that matters – and maybe I can get enough people saying it to change the accepted usage!

  6. Brian said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 7:21 am

    It appears they're stumbling over the past perfect tense, not the past tense.

  7. ThomasH said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 7:55 am

    The verb "hang glide" is regular and gets the same conjugation as glide: glide, glided, glided.

  8. ThomasH said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 8:01 am

    Can I try to hijack this thread for a question. Is it just coincidence or something more systematic that led to both modern English and Spanish having a parallel "past perfect" — I have seen" "He visto" — conjugation evolve from Old English and Latin that did not have them?

  9. ScottW said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 8:43 am

    Definitely "scuba-dived".

    But how about "hang-glidered"?

  10. Craig said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 8:52 am

    @Thomas, actually those are in the present perfect tense. Past perfect would be "I had seen" / "Habia visto" .

  11. John Walden said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 9:54 am

    @ThomasH. If I've got it right, auxiliary "have, avoir, haben, haber etc" have been pushing out auxiliary "be" to make perfects to a greater or lesser extent in various European languages for some considerable time. In some cases, like "He is gone" and "She is come", "be" has held out for longer. In fact, what the 's of "It's finished" is is moot.

    I think it probably started as a bit slangy: "He has gone" meaning he possesses the quality of gone. Certainly that's what it sounds like when tener is used in Spanish "Tengo visto" (I have seen) and I think that's how Portuguese does it, with tenher.

    If there's an epicentre for this, from which it spread out/jumped to other cognate or less cognate languages (A brief Google tells me that Macedonian is the only Slavic language that uses an equivalent of "have" and not "be") I couldn't say. But it doesn't seem to have reached the corners so much so maybe it was sort of where French meets Italian in the times of Late Latin. It does kind of peter out the further west you go in Spanish.

    To be honest this is just a guess and I will be deridden and jiven for my ignorance any moment now.

  12. Gene Callahan said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 10:10 am

    @Bean: 'I was well into university when I finally realized that "dove" wasn't the officially sanctioned past tense of "dive"'

    My dictionary lists "dove."

  13. KevinM said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 11:03 am

    Grammar hawks pounce on dove.

  14. Coby Lubliner said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 11:28 am

    For activities described by a gerund preceded by a modifier, it seems to be common to back-form a finite verb with the same form; hence "hang-glide" and "scuba-dive". I have even heard "I like to horseback-ride".

  15. Q. Pheevr said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 11:50 am

    Glide was historically a strong verb, and was treated as one by writers as recent as Elizabeth Barrett Browning: "On the back of the quick-winged bird I glode." So it's not surprising that a kid—especially one as precociously well-read as Caulfield—might be confused about it.
    Unfortunately, I have not been able to turn up any examples of the past participle of hang-glide in Browning's poetry.

  16. Guy said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 11:57 am

    I recently watched a video of people speedrunning video games – completing them as quickly as possible, often by exploiting glitches – and found it interesting that many in that community apparently form the past tense and past participle forms as "spedrun" rather than "speedran" etymologically "speedrun" seems to be a noun-verb compound verb, but apparently the fact that "speed" is also a verb makes the alternate conjugation natural without regard to the recent and transparent etymology.

  17. MikeA said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 12:41 pm

    @Gene Callhan

    I could wish that your dictionary had been available in 1962, when a substitute teacher ("not from these parts", apparently) marked our entire English class down for "dove" versus "dived".

    I do not believe her name was Norma Loquendi.

  18. Lane said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 2:04 pm

    "Have you ever hang-glided?" *sounds* perfectly natural to me. It looks weirder written, for some reason, though.

  19. Guy said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 2:18 pm

    I suppose I should have said "rather than 'speedran'/'speedrun'" which causes me to wonder – are there examples of English verbs other than "run" where the preterite form is different from the plain form but the past participle form is the same as the plain?

  20. Guy said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 2:26 pm

    In case anyone else is curious, I looked it up in the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language and it appears that "come" is the only other example of such a verb (ignoring compounds like "become").

  21. J. W. Brewer said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 3:29 pm

    "Glid" seems to be used as the past tense of "to glide" in this song (and click through to the youtube audio/video or find it separately; it's pretty awesome). But since this is performed by a quite eccentric hippie ensemble of mixed backgrounds (Australian/British/French, and maybe I'm forgetting something), I'm not sure it's a good datapoint for usage in any stable naturally-occurring variety of English.

  22. empty said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 5:08 pm

    Grammar hawks may pounce on "dove", but I'm sure there are plenty of other who will think you're talking funny if you say "dived".

    My wife often says "blew my hair dry", because "blow-dried my hair" sounds wrong to her.

  23. Eric P Smith said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 6:40 pm

    My favourite non-standard past tense of a compound verb is "slepwalked".

    The first time I heard the phrase "hang gliding" (as opposed to merely seeing it in print) it was spoken in a strong regional dialect. It was at an agricultural show in Shetland in 1978 and it was repeatedly pronounced in public announcements as "haung-gliddin" [hɒːŋ glɪdn̩]

  24. January First-of-May said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 8:24 pm

    I agree with ScottW – I'm fine with "scuba-dived", and I'd probably say "hang-glidered".

  25. Mark s said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 9:21 pm

    "Dove" is definitely American (or a bird). Any Brit would say "dived".

  26. Xmun said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 11:21 pm

    Are we now done on this topic?

  27. Xmun said,

    July 10, 2015 @ 11:55 pm

    Past tense "dove" was good enough for Ernest Hemingway (in "The Old Man and the Sea"). I remember my shock when I read it for the first time, at the age of 16 or thereabouts, not long after the book was first published in the UK.

  28. Zizoz said,

    July 11, 2015 @ 6:02 am

    "Dove" for me is an acceptable past tense of "dive", but it grates horribly when I hear/see it used as a past participle. (My Dictionary application, which apparently uses the New Oxford American Dictionary, agrees with me.)

  29. Joseph F Foster said,

    July 11, 2015 @ 8:09 am

    Re Ziroz' comment just above, I don't recall ever having heard dove used as past participle. Is this regional? I too have dove as the simple past / preterite form but my past participle is diven. And I care what a dictionary gives only for historical or curiosity reasons.

  30. Matt Juge said,

    July 11, 2015 @ 4:03 pm

    A quick Google of "he had dove" yields clear examples of dove as past participle.

  31. naddy said,

    July 12, 2015 @ 10:47 am

    @ThomasH, @John Walden:
    It is certainly no coincidence that Germanic and Romance languages share the "have/be + participle" perfect construction.

    The center of this appears to be somewhere in the area of French/German. Both languages combine "have" and "be" as an auxiliary with the past participle to form perfect tenses. And both languages largely agree, based on semantics, which verbs require the one and which require the other auxiliary (je suis allé/ich bin gegangen, j'ai vu/ich habe gesehen). As you move away from this Franco-German center, there is some attrition. Both Spanish and English only use "have" as the perfect auxiliary, having lost this use of "be". Portuguese has gone one step further and replaced the "have" verb.(*)

    I have long wondered about the ultimate origin of this construction. I have come across sporadic, unsubstantiated claims that French has borrowed it from Germanic, as well as opposite claims that German has borrowed it from Romance. Neither Latin nor the old Germanic languages really had this construction. It can be described as an areal feature of Germanic and Romance. (Slavic by contrast gets a lot of mileage from "be" as the sole auxiliary.)

    *) French uses its reflex of Latin "habere" both as an auxiliary and for possession. Spanish uses the reflexes of "habere" as auxiliary, "tenere" for possession. Portuguese uses "tenere" for both. This substitution is less surprising when you consider that Latin "habere" is also not cognate with the Germanic "have" words.

  32. ThomasH said,

    July 12, 2015 @ 2:26 pm

    "Dove" but never "diven"

  33. Guy said,

    July 12, 2015 @ 4:00 pm


    I'm by no means an expert on the language, but I believe Japanese has vaguely similar constructions using ある (aru), as an auxiliary, when not an auxiliary it can indicate either possession or existence. So for example we have 日本に行ったことある (nihonni itta koto aru) "I've gone to Japan before" or we can use a different construction to get a different meaning of the perfect このを飲んである (kono o nonde aru) "this has been drunk from" to indicate a continuing result. I assume there's no historical relation between these and the forms in Romance and Germanic languages, so perhaps there's some reason it's a natural evolution in meaning that reinforces the development/spread of constructions of these sorts.

  34. Guy said,

    July 12, 2015 @ 4:10 pm

    Whoops! I believe この (kono) should have been これ (kore). Like I said, I'm by no means an expert, or even fluent, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

  35. PubliusVA said,

    July 14, 2015 @ 6:36 am

    @Q. Pheevr: "Unfortunately, I have not been able to turn up any examples of the past participle of hang-glide in Browning's poetry."

    Why would she need to hang-glide when she could ride on the back of a giant bird?

  36. Lars said,

    July 14, 2015 @ 7:59 am

    Periphrasis with HAVE goes back to classical Greek and Latin.

    cum cognitum habeas quod sit summi rectoris … numen (Cicero de finibus 4, 11)

    There are signs in Germanic that the same construction is being grammaticalized in the last half of the first millenium CE (i.e., the participle losing agreement with any object present). Wulfila's Bible has examples that parallel Greek closely, so if you want borrowing, Koine -> Germanic may be your best bet.

    (Example stolen from Bridget Drinka "The development of the HAVE perfect" in Raúl Aronovich (ed), Split Auxiliary Systems: A cross-linguistic perspective, John Benjamins 2007 [Typological Studies in Language 69]. By way of Google since the e-book costs 173 USD).

  37. Michael Watts said,

    July 14, 2015 @ 3:49 pm

    Blew-dried seems to belong to a fairly widespread phenomenon where English two-word verbs receive verb inflections on both components. Compare "fixer-upper" or the activity associated with hunter-gatherers, "hunting-gathering".

  38. J. W. Brewer said,

    July 16, 2015 @ 9:53 am

    Former president G.H.W. Bush is back in the news, unfortunately due to having just suffered an injury, and several of the stories noted (by way of showing how physically active he had remained at quite an advanced age) that he "skydived" on his 80th and 85th birthdays. But none from the most recent news cycle seem to have used "skydove." I might myself have avoided the issue by going with "parachuted" (or even "went skydiving") . . .

  39. ThomasH said,

    July 16, 2015 @ 12:13 pm

    You did well to avoid skydove to avoid confusion with the ground-dove and the water-dove.

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